Alexandre Dumas’ work, Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, is undoubtedly interpreted many ways in literary analysis. I do not purport any insights into such matters but only suggest that the themes expressed are worthy of consideration. If only in a general way. The tale of Edmond Dantès can be seen as a journey from severe naïveté to an emotional coarse state borne of the pain of tremendous loss. Within a domicile most cruel, Dantès sheds his warm nature as he slowly sees his plight as brutally unfair until he seeks a most vengeful compensation.
His story does not consummate in great tragedy but in the redemption of his original character. This happens through his now and once close affiliates, themselves greatly jaded about the course of things, who see the developing horror that is his transformation advocate for another path. They are not saints, neither is he, but in the end, he turns away from the destruction of he with whom he had the highest grievance. Expressed in film, the story is particularly captivating.
Much exists within the narrative Alexandre Dumas penned. He relates a concise observation of a large part of the human condition. The reality of conditions of depravity and endless physical and emotional agony. People in the poorest parts of most nations know what this is like in a real way. Others, not quite poor now, whose brush with poverty earlier in life blends with barriers to a more solvent existence may empathize more closely on this matter. Life it seems continues to move in two directions.
The idea of modernity exists in the minds of many of us exposed to first world media at large. Advertisements and highly dressed fiction show us a future with an implied enlightenment. The curated history of civilization shows an even progression towards a reality in which the major issues of a regressive existence is solved. Elevated lifestyles accessed through productive participation in highly structured institutions impart many benefits that separate us from a less inspired existence.
Another life does exist and it comes from the past. Brutal existence usually shown as a cleanly distance historical account of past societies coexists with modern society today. The past never truly stayed the past. It lives on in a way that is more an exercise in containment than a means to transition brutal circumstances into ones that are more productive and representative of the ideals of modernity.
Every now and again, you get a reminder of this reality. You see it more in those who are truly poor. They may be persons you do not encounter everyday. I grew up poor for several years. My mother was poor and my siblings and I shared in this condition. Ironically, I wasn’t born poor which shaped my perspective slightly. Regardless of my origins, I grew up in what some call poor neighborhoods. A pleasant relief growing up poor is you don’t really know it for a while. At least until the first time you meet those even just one rung up the economic ladder. Within poverty, there is what you might call okay poverty and really bad poverty. Somehow, you are still able to live.
Eventually, you may be fortunate enough to escape that condition. Years spent in heightened conditions can blanket over genuine knowledge that all of life isn’t that way. Truth is, even if you personally lived with roaches, mold, and odors most impolite to describe and adversities of various kinds that few would believe, there are always others in a worse way. I was reminded of that in hard, sharp detail in the story of Harold Hempstead. A tale more wrenching than anything Dante Alighieri could conjure.
Perhaps in a manner similar to the central character of Dumas’ plot, Harold Hempstead, while not saint either, may yet serve as a catalyst for redemption. The journey he has taken is not even same vaguely similar to the one Edmond Dantès undertook unwillingly. Except, Harold’s experience reveals Château d’If as a real concept. The places we consign our attempts to mask the fumes of an incomplete and possibly unsustainable modernity. Many of the unappealing aspects of past societies in the perceived hardship they underwent as an implied lack of various achievements seem to remain but hidden. We hide it most effectively in what we do not express as to the true state of the world.
News reporting is often criticized as showing too much negativity. You can count me among those who have observed that view. Stories such as Harold Hempstead’s shows the impact of reporting that can serve to improve the conversation. Even when the conversation is raw and discomforting. Yes, valid concerns about media exist and they require more engagement by a populace that would seek to be better informed. Despite the limited means for describing the world, more of the story eventually seeps across the mask as the reality beneath perspires a potent emission. The basic idea of uncomfortable truths expressed, even when tragedy captivates the mind for the wrong reasons, holds as a reminder that the work to realize the implied achievement of modern civilization remains in abundance.